John W Winsley

In trying to determine who John W Winsley was, I was eventually able to find out. He comes from this reference from Irish Bureau of Military History.


Bay 16


Exhumation of Late Pte John W Winsley - Executed by Sentence of Court martial

And it turned out that he was a National Army soldier executed as a result of a Court MArtial sentence by the National Army itself, for selling arms to Anti Treaty fighters. And his death , apart from him being an ex-soldier, was nothing to do with the British

He was born John Winsley, and served first as John Winsley in the British Army. In 1916 he re-enlisted as Bernard Winsley, having been earlier discharged as physically unfit. He appears to have altered his Christian name to avoid his previous medical history being discovered.


1892 Jun 17. Born Cork The lying in Hospital, address on Cert 39 Hanover Street, Cork

 He had a sister Susan born Rochfords Lane, Cork 1898 March 15th and she died 1899 October 6th. At 2 Rochfords Lane, Cork      

1901 Living with his parents in Cork at 2 Grafton's Alley. The 1911 census shows that John sr and Susan only ever had two children - so they must be Mary/Maria and John/Barney. And, if you zoom in on the 1911 entry, you can see what appears to be a half-erased "B" under John's name. Barney/Bernie sound very similar with an Irish accent! And O'Farrell's 'Who's Who' has a section titled 'Civil War Executions' and has the entry:"Winsley, Bernard: Cork County Prison, September 1922"

1911 Living at 2 Grafton St, Cork. John jr appears as "Barney" on the 1901 census.

1911 Jul 6 . 9588 Private John Winsley attests to the Leinster Regt. He signs up for 7 years in Colours and 5 in Reserve. A town labourer with previous service in the 4th Batt.R.M.FUS. (Militia?). Next of Kin Susan (mother) Mary (sister) of 2 Grafton St. Cork. Discharged Free 19/1/1912.

1912 Jan 19 Discharged from Leinster Regt

1912 Aug 9. Enlisted in RGA in Cork as a Territorial (Special Reservist). His record is on Ancestry

1914 May 2. Marries Kitty O'Driscoll in Cork. Address for both as 2 Grafton St.

 1915 Jun 22. They had a Son John, Born 1915 Jun 22nd address 4 Grafton St.

 1915 Sep 18. Discharged as "no longer physically fit for war service". He was suffering from Blepharitis Marginalis , a chronic inflammation of the margin or edge of the eyelids accompanied by congestion, thickening and ulceration of the parts and the formation of scales and crusts.

1916 Aug 8. Enlisted in RE now using Bernard as a Christian name. The Silver War Badge details exist for 196734/355171 Sapper Bernard Winsley, Royal Engineers (Inland Waterways and Docks) Served between 8/8/1916 to 28/3/1919 and served Overseas. Age recorded as 24. Discharged due to sickness.

1919 Mar 28 Discharged from British Army due to sickness. Possibly his old eye problem.

1922 Sep 1. Pte John/Bernard Winsley executed by sentence of Court Martial in Cork Gaol. Death Cert said he was a Soldier in the National Army and his death notice was published in the Irish Examiner the following day. O'Farrell's 'Who's Who' has a section titled 'Civil War Executions' and has the entry: "Winsley, Bernard: Cork County Prison, September 1922"

And a Pension Card gives Widow - Kathleen living at 4 Market Avenue, Old George, Cork.

Winsley does not appear in the list of 77 Republican (anti-Treaty) fighters executed by the Free State authorities during the Civil War (see 'Seventy-Seven of Mine said Ireland', by Martin O'Dwyer, Cork, Deshaoirse (sic), 2006).

In his book The Irish Civil War, Law Execution and Atrocity" Sean Enright says "By the end of the war 83 prisoners had been executed. The evidence suggests that it was the policy of the National Army to execute the rank and file: most held little or no rank and most were in their early 20s or still teenagers. Anti-treaty TDs captured in arms were never executed and nearly all high-ranking prisoners were spared. .....Curiously, the first execution was entirely unauthorised. National Army Private Barney Winsley was shot by firing squad for selling arms to anti-treaty fighters."

The first authorised execution was on 17th November, 1922.

1922 Oct 4. His mother Susan Winsley died 1922 Oct 4th from Hemiplegia with was certified for 1 month and 3 days. Consistent with the shock of her sons death causing a paralysis and ultimately her death.

1924 Oct 29. The body was some time later exhumed. It was probably one of the bodies referred to below.

1929 Feb 12.

Kate remarries

British Soldiers died in Ireland